Canada’s Minister of International Trade Ed Fast, left, and Zambia’s high commissioner to Canada Bobby Mbunji Samakai announced the conclusion of foreign investment protection and promotion agreement negotiations at Franco-Mine 2013 | Courtesy of Stephen Uhraney
“Opportunity” was the mot du jour at Franco-Mine 2013, a daylong symposium held during the PDAC Convention in Toronto, which explored Canadian mining interests in Francophone West Africa and Quebec. More than 150 representatives from both jurisdictions, including federal ministers, along with financial and mining professionals, discussed growth potential and investment obstacles in each region’s mining sectors. Co-hosted by CIM and the Canadian and Quebec governments, the symposium was highlighted by the conclusion of foreign investment protection and promotion agreement (FIPA) negotiations between Canada and Cameroon, and a second with Zambia.
“Taken together, these two new bilateral investment agreements will help provide Canadian companies with the transparency and predictability they look for when considering expanding their business beyond our borders,” said Ed Fast, Canada’s minister of international trade.
“Canada and Africa share a common goal,” said Fast. “We all want to increase and enhance the quality of life and standard of living for all of our citizens. We do that by allowing trade and investment, which I believe are the twin engines of economic growth, to generate long-term prosperity for Canadians and Africans alike.”
Fast praised CIM for its longstanding commitment to responsible business practices, along with its facilitation of networking and professional development in the international mining sector. Pointing to the recently launched CIM branch in Dakar, Senegal, he highlighted two research projects the branch will oversee that aim to develop an analysis model for local and regional supply chain opportunities in West African gold mining. “I am confident that CIM’s new branch will make a positive contribution in the region,” Fast said.
CIM executive director Jean Vavrek also expressed his excitement about the Dakar branch. “The launch of our first branch in West Africa, as part of the newly approved CIM African District, is the first step towards establishing a strong local leadership team and will serve as a great platform for activities that will encourage the expanding francophone mining community to come together,” he said.
A recurring theme put forth by West African mining representatives was the degree to which Africa’s considerable mineral potential can be leveraged into increased economic independence within African mining nations, thus supporting sustained political stability. Canadian investments in African mining firms could facilitate side-by-side economic growth for both parties.
“We really are a mining economy,” said Omar Hamidou Tchiana, minister of mining and industrial development of Niger. The mining industry generates 15 per cent of the nation’s revenue, he said, adding Niger boasts considerable mineral potential in uranium, phosphate, iron, platinum, silver, cobalt and manganese. Hamidou Tchiana added that Japanese, French, and Chinese investors have recently taken note of the country’s mining interests.
Salif Lamoussa Kaboré, minister of mines and energy of Burkina Faso, boasted of his country’s 20-year political stability and significant deposits of gold and other minerals. He reported that private investments in the mining industry have grown steadily in the past decade, to the degree where gold has now surpassed traditional mainstay exports of cotton and cattle.
Quebec presenters, like Natural Resources Minister Martine Ouellet, provided an overview of the state of mining in the province. Robert Giguère, general director of the ministry of natural resources, said a key platform for reaching out to young people and potential mining professionals will be next year’s Québec Mines International conference, which aims to build networks and also publicize events with Francophone West Africa to provide collaborative opportunities for foreign governments.
In a discussion of challenges and opportunities from an industry perspective, Mamoudou Diallo, general director of Semafo’s operations in Guinea, said training was a primary concern for his company. Oumar Toguyeni of Iamgold expressed the need to “develop local entrepreneurship to empower the population.” In order to embark on local mining operations in good faith, community engagement is essential, according to Toguyeni.
Navin Dyal of Teranga Gold put the optics of these negotiations succinctly: with patience and by employing good practices, Canada is in a position to change the nature of African mining, with the net result being a higher standard of living for citizens of host countries wherein the industry and host governments work together.